U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrived in Ukraine on Monday on a surprise visit to “reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine” and announce the first transfer of $1.25 billion from a $9.9 billion tranche of aid to Ukraine, according to Reuters.
“America will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes,” she told Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal during her visit.
She also laid a wreath at a memorial wall for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the war, met with first responders from the city, and visited a square with a destroyed Russian tank and mobile artillery piece on display.
“I am witnessing first-hand the devastating toll of Putin’s brutal war,” she said, according to Reuters.
She made the visit on her way back from the G20 finance summit in India, where she first said the U.S. was preparing to give $10 billion in economic aid to Ukraine.
According to Reuters, Ukraine is estimated to need $40 billion to $57 billion in external financing this year to support its economy, and is negotiating a $15.5 billion loan program with the International Monetary Fund to partly fill the gap.
Why is America’s Treasury Secretary in Ukraine? pic.twitter.com/vsZP5O7MzD
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Yellen’s visit comes less than a week after President Joe Biden visited the country on February 21, also to reaffirm his support for Ukraine.
After Biden’s trip, the Pentagon announced two additional military aid packages, one worth $460 million and another worth $2 billion. Yellen said last week that the U.S. is preparing to give another $10 billion to Ukraine.
Yellen also reportedly met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, commending him “for his leadership and resolve in the face of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war.”
She also said she welcomed his actions to strengthen governance and address corruption, Reuters reported.
A day before her arrival, Zelensky announced he had fired Major Gen. Eduard Mykhailovich Moskalov, the military commander in charge of the Donbas region, the latest in a series of recent firings.
The previous firings of top Ukrainian officials were reportedly linked to misusing funds for the Ukrainian military, although there was no explanation yet as to why Moskalov was fired.
Yellen published an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday arguing for more economic aid to Ukraine, timed with her trip.
Highlighting Ukraine’s enormous financial needs, Yellen detailed some of the ways United States “economic support” has met those needs, including enabling more than half a million health care workers, and a similar number of teachers, to continue working.
As Russia undertakes a widespread and systematic attack on Ukraine’s civilian population, we’ve helped Ukraine mount a vigorous response to assist over a million people who have had to flee their homes, while also providing social assistance, housing and utility subsidies and pension payments for millions of vulnerable Ukrainians bearing the economic brunt of the war. And our aid has enabled civil servants to continue to operate the government, ensuring that it remains able to provide a steady hand during a period of extreme hardship.
Further, through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, we are providing funding to repair basic infrastructure. This includes civilian energy grids hit by Russian missiles. Our support helps buttress the foundations of the Ukrainian economy so it can continue to operate under extraordinary circumstances.
We cannot allow Ukraine to lose the war for economic reasons when it has shown an ability to succeed on the battlefield. Ukraine’s military resistance depends on a government that can function effectively, as well as a stable economy that can help finance defense efforts over the long term. By fortifying the ‘home front,’ our economic assistance is helping make possible Ukraine’s stalwart frontline defense against Russia.
Yellen’s visit comes as the American public is growing increasingly opposed to giving aid to Ukraine.
A new Fox News poll published Monday showed that 46% believe that Ukraine aid should be limited, and 50% said it should continue “for as long as it takes,” as the Biden administration has pledged. That poll tracked closely with an NBC News poll in January showing that 47% opposed Congress approving more aid to Ukraine while 49% approved, with a margin of error of 3%.